HOW TO: Choose Skid Plates

Choosing between Aluminum, Steel and UHMW skid plates

We can’t seem to stop drilling the point home that protection is extremely important when it comes to self preservation, but machine protection is also important. One of our first upgrades to any machine is skid plate installation. There are three common types of skid plates: aluminum and UHMW (Ultra High Molecular Weight) plastic, and steel.

Steel has been most commonly used for a long time to protect the underside of ATVs and some UTVs, however it has quickly phased out. Steel is a pliable metal that can easily be damaged and it corrodes quickly as well. It is easy to work with and repair when it gets damaged, but due to it’s weight and lack of integrity, aluminum and UHMW are the top choices these days.

This Polaris ACE 570 project gained a set of aluminum skid plates.

Aluminum has multiple benefits, and has been widely utilized as skid plate material for quite a while now. It is less expensive to utilize than UHMW plastics due to the fact that it is repairable. Aluminum generally needs to be thicker than equivalent steel plating though, but it wont rust and corrode when it gets gouged and scratched. Aluminum also retains a very good impact strength. Like steel, aluminum will be loud on impacts and generally rattle even if it is properly secured onto your machine.

A set of Ricochet UHMW skid plates where installed on a Polaris RZR XP 4 Turbo

This material has become popular for many different reasons. For starters, it wont bend and doesn’t easily break. The material flexes, stretches, bends and still retains its shape. It also glides and slides over rocks, roots, ruts and more, where metal skid plates catch. In some cases, we have seen UHMW material gouge easily. The material also generally needs to be thicker than aluminum or steel, but it is much quieter.

Our thoughts on which material is best suited to utilize are quite simple. UHMW is superior in every way except price. You can’t repair UHMW like you can with aluminum and steel when it gets damaged. A fabricator could easily fix a bend or broken skid, but you can’t simply melt plastic back together. UHMW is quieter, glides over terrain and is more difficult to damage. What ever you may choose, we suggest that you go ahead and install some skid plates! You can save your frame and suspension components from a lot of damage while out having a blast in the trails.

Aftermarket skid plates tend to be much more protective than stock ones.

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